Tipping a hat to LPCSC Food Service Department
Mr. Rogers once said to look for the helpers when scary things happen. 2020 has brought challenge after challenge, but just like Rogers’ quote, the helpers showed up time and time again. One of the groups who deserves a massive thank you in La Porte undoubtedly is the LPCSC Food Service team.
In normal times, the food service workers are integral members of the school community, ensuring that thousands of students are fed each day. Feeding all those children is much easier as trays slide down the line in the cafeteria, but everything changed on March 13th when schools closed their doors. With many families relying on the corporation for meals, the food service team, led by Cindy Vondra, knew their mission just became even more important.
“We got the news on Friday, March 13th that schools were closing, and on Monday, March 16th, we hit the ground running. The morning of the 16th our staff prepared 1000 breakfast bags and a 1000 lunch bags. We loaded them in coolers and had them ready for pick up at the Civic Auditorium that day. From that day forward, we never looked back,” Vonda said.
A once bustling high school cafeteria, filled with hundreds of students each lunch period, became the headquarters of a distribution center that would end up making over 111,000 meals from March until August. Each day, 12-16 team members made meals in the kitchen, two women loaded and drove the trucks to the nine different sites, and 12 others worked at the pick up sites. Rain, sleet, or snow, the food service team was there with a smile and a bagged meal for children under the age of 18.
The love and dedication did not go unnoticed within the community.
“Families showed their gratitude in many ways. They would drop off coffee, hot chocolate, donuts and even homemade masks. The kids wrote thank you notes and colored us pictures, which were our favorite,” Vondra said.
The challenge clearly did not end in August. The 2020-2021 school year has presented many new hurdles, but yet again, the LPCSC food service team stepped up.
“The term ‘pivot’ has been used frequently when addressing the needs during the time of COVID-19. Our LPCSC Food Service Department has demonstrated the true meaning. From the beginning when schools closed in March and food was being distributed at all of our schools within two days, to pivoting to serve meals to both in-person and distance learning students, to pivoting to serve meals when schools went virtual following Thanksgiving, and helping a fellow school corporation provide meals for a week when that staff was quarantined, these are just a few of the examples of how this department of amazing people have pivoted and all while having a smile on their faces and demonstrating what true customer service is,” Mark Francesconi, LPCSC superintendent, said.
The work done for La Porte alone is astonishing, but the selflessness did not end there. The LPCSC Food Service Department lent a helping hand to the Westville district when their food service team was quarantined. Without hesitation, they stepped in to prepare meals for another community.
“Mr. Hunt contacted us and asked if we could help feed 120 students breakfast and lunch for three days. Luckily we had the inventory at the high school, and the staff there was only too happy to help. They put together 360 breakfast bags and 360 lunch bags that afternoon. Westville sent someone to pick them up, and they distributed them to their students. We were very happy that we were able to help out,” Vondra said.
“While working with the food service staff during the last eight months or so of the emergency feeding, I was impressed how well the staff adapted to taking on new roles, working in different kitchens, and sometimes with a different staff. They made sure meals were served. The program was so successful due to the flexibility and willingness of everyone working together as a team to make sure the kids were fed,” Vonda said.
LPCSC social media has allowed all to see the beauty of this team throughout this year. The community has seen the smiles during the snow and rain, the hard work behind the scenes, and the love during distribution. Kitchen staff have even been seen jumping on a Zoom call to read a story to students who are learning from home.
In a year of wild uncertainties, the food service team of La Porte has been a constant. It is not just a job to them; the kids are at the center of all their efforts.
“We would just like to thank the community for their continued support. By the community coming out and picking up meals it allowed us to let the kids know we’re still here and thinking about them,” Vonda said.
In scary times, Mr. Rogers said look to the helpers. Here’s to you, LPCSC Food Service team. You represent the best in all of us.